Men Mentoring and Being Predators to Boy Youths is Nothing New
Friends and Readers: This is one of the most important blogs I will ever publish. It is a guest blog written by a friend – Craig Shoemaker – one of the most talented comics today. (Click here for his website or You Tube him.) If you have ever seen his “Lovemaster” routine, or heard him do impressions, sing with his glorious voice, or have been driven to tears or needed oxygen from hysterical laughter generated by him, you may be surprised at the pain behind the man. As we were discussing the Penn State tragedies, Craig bravely offered to come forward with his own story of abuse and the years-later horrifying aftermath. I am publishing this because Craig and I both agree that we cannot let society continue to turn a blind eye to predators. I only ask you to direct all comments below on this page in the link that says Comments. It is important that he hear your own words of support and validation after you read. Use any email address to register to comment – it’s easy.
It’s a long one, but worth reading and commenting. Here are his own words below.
Guest Blog Written by Craig Shoemaker
I am from Pennsylvania, and have been a long time fan of Penn State football. Because I was a “buddy with a car”, I used to drive my friend Herb 3 hours there from our hometown outside Philadelphia. Herb was a starting kicker on the PSU football team, so I got gas money in the form of tickets to Saturday afternoon games in Happy Valley, and damn what a reward it was!
There is nothing in the world like this place if you love sports, as the customs and enthusiasm play out for an entire weekend. The man who is the key to turning an anonymous state agricultural school into one of the most successful and prolific Universities in modern times, is their long-time, legendary coach, Joe “Joe Pa” Paterno.
I’m not one to watch the news, but in the past couple months one cannot miss the incidents and surreal scene unfolding in Nittany Lion country, and the football program is at the core of the ever developing saga. Jerry Sandusky, the former assistant coach for Joe Pa and integral part of the building of “Linebacker U,” is accused of sexual assault of minors over a 20-year period of time.
Like most people, I believe in a citizen’s rights. We are innocent until proven guilty. That assumption is even more at play in this case, as I do not wish for these allegations to be true, considering my lifetime of allegiance and respect for what the football team has meant to countless others.
Yes, I have a first reaction of denial, as is natural when you don’t want to believe something that has been an integral and valuable part of growing up. When what you believe in is rocked like that, then I think we tend to look for ways to cope, which includes repudiation, refuting, casting blame or ignoring it all together.
Yet with this particular issue of child abuse, it causes me to react in a way that challenges common dogma or faith in idols or institutions. I see this in a different way than most, since it is personal to me, and very much a part of my life’s journey.
I am a standup comic by trade and have trained myself to examine all sides of a narrative, and subsequently offer unique perspective, often finding the humor at the core of the premise. In the case of Sandusky, I do not wish to search for the comedy in this very sad tale, but I will not turn a blind eye to it either. To be honest, I might be able to find laughs, but the masses know this subject to be taboo and off limits.
Most of my humor is generated from personal history and much of the source of laughter has pain at its roots. Hurt has inspired me as nothing else has, and the way I process perceptive heartbreak has led to magnificent discoveries. The more I choose to explore dangerous regions within me, the better the “product.”
In hopes of being of service to any victim of abuse, I share my personal emotional archive.
When I was 13 years old, I was taken away for four days to a ghetto flop house “hotel” in Washington DC and held against my will or choice by a serial pedophile. His name was Ben. He was allegedly a friend, mentor and father figure to me during a short time just before I hit puberty.
I had met him five months before our trip. As I was waiting outside Veteran’s Stadium to get some celebrity autographs, he gained my trust and admiration by taking me into a pro football locker room and introducing me to my favorite players from the team I rooted for. I was star struck and amazed. I had a conversation with Harold Carmichael, who shook my hand with the same large paws that had just caught a touchdown that day! I don’t think I had ever met anyone that tall or that famous, and to look up and see him this close was a stunning, ethereal experience.
I felt seen and acknowledged for the first time in my life, since my own father chose to live his own life without paying attention to his only son. I had never had a catch, attended a game or even been in the company of my father alone, without business associates or one of his “harem” of women surrounding him.
So here comes Ben, a 70-year old stranger who actively pursued a relationship with me, became a father figure and filled the masculine void for me. He took me to Philadelphia Eagles football games and became a guy my mom could use to take my pre-pubescent issues out of her hair. She would often tell me whenever I felt distress or despair, what she deemed to be my sole problem – “this is because of your father,” so Ben was the temporary fix on that.
What I got in my new buddy was a confident, male influence who could replace a dad who chose to disappear from my life, and a mom who did not know how to (or want to) communicate with a young boy. Ben was supposedly a former lineman for the Chicago Bears. His handle bar mustache and cowboy hat demonstrated to me that he was a man’s man. Well, this was about a year before the Village People came on to the scene and showed us the other side of “macho!”
I got what I could not get in a home of all females, showing me how to tell dirty jokes, ogle girls and drink booze out of a flask.
My enthusiasm for life, strong desire for a father and seeing the good in all people, caused me to ignore the indications of what Ben truly was – a repeated child molester. An event that was supposed to be an amazing weekend watching my home team play in another stadium, turned into a nightmare that would haunt me for years.
I have total recall of that weekend 150 miles from my home in Philadelphia. I do not choose to turn my head to it or pass it over. It is as much a part of my life as all the wonderful moments with family and friends.
All the accused child molesters I have observed use the same basic playbook. They convince us that they are being a nurturing source of comfort to boys who need a man to assist them. Claims are often made of how they do nothing wrong, and that their behavior is merely an expression of warmth for a child in need.
I recall the conversations with Ben when he was trying to have his way with me. I have always been worldly and resilient, and I used all my street skills to talk him out of his surprise agenda. He was sure to let me know this was not a “homosexual” act, and even attempted to lure me by showing me Penthouse and Playboy magazines. He bragged about his female conquests. Actually, slurs about homosexuals flew out of his mouth with ease, a source of bonding with his friends we hung out with.
The guys of this ilk are passionate and loud about questioning morality and what we all accept as “normal.” Ben yelled; “What is normal anyway? F-ck morals! They are man-made, and come from hypocrites. You are my best buddy and buddies sleep together. There is nothing wrong about that. Look at all I’ve done for you. This is how you repay me?”
It is tough to have answers for a man so compelled to procure what he wants and well versed in repeating what he needed to say to get it. A boy does not have what it takes to face such an attack. I challenged and stood up to him the best I could, but a man on a mission is a difficult foe. This applies to any man who forces his way into the innocence of someone who is so confused and shocked. Their actions are rationalized and justified, so it’s impossible to be rational in response to their committed goal or having what they want.
In my case, I returned from those few days of hell in our nation’s capital and was devastated and demoralized. My world was turned upside down and my effusive and positive personality took a hit. I did not know whom to turn to, but yearned to get this secret out. How was I supposed to react when someone asked how my time went on my weekend, especially when I left home with such outward anticipation and expectation?
I chose my mother to confide in. Her words of advice still chill me – “Don’t you ever tell this to anyone. We will keep it between us. No one will believe you anyway. We will not talk about this again.”
Actually, considering how most respond when an iconic, dominant or popular figure is accused, her reaction is pretty much in line as far as how many respond to this kind of circumstance. Denial supersedes support, and that is the crux of the problem. Too often folks do not wish to challenge long-held beliefs, so they choose to kill the message and the messenger in one shot.
My spirit took a bullet to the heart, for sure.
In most sexual abuse cases, the criminal’s profile is usually someone who’s highly regarded as person in the community who makes us feel more secure, happy or fulfilled, thus we turn our heads to what is right in front of us. If we don’t “want” to believe it, we will fight like hell to stay immovable in our position.
The results of this paradigm are paralyzing. When a boy thinks about telling on a father-like figure, he knows instinctually he will be tortured and disgraced even further. Men are taught not to “rat out” anybody. The perps know this and use this to their advantage.
I have seen the interviews in the Penn State case. What I observe in the Sandusky situation I can relate to my own story – the patterns of a child molester.
First, they lure a young boy by offering them something the kid does not possess, which can be in the form of money, gifts, prestige or just someone who will be a compassionate paternal ear for the child. The boys are usually at the most vulnerable age, as I was being a thirteen year old who had not yet hit puberty when most others already had.
Most victims are fatherless, either by death, divorce or abandonment. The assailant assumes the role of dad, and gives the boy what he has been missing – a stable male role model and understanding voice. Most of the time, the man’s job or evocation calls for him to be surrounded by adoring boys, such as camp directors, priests and coaches. Because they are entrusted by the community and have done so many deeds that help others, it allows them to do as they please without scrutiny.
In my old neighborhood, I was actually jealous of all the kids who were part of our local Parks & Recreation chief’s crew, since they all got to go to the cool events and were given high paying township jobs. They were basically hand picked by the man in charge, Joe.
Turns out, my fate was on my side this time, because this guy Joe was a pedophile. There are dozens of men my age who remain ruined to this day based on this man preying upon their innocence. Just like me, the kids who hung in that group wanted male bonding. What they got was a man who subjected them to various acts that he (like Sandusky and Ben) believed to be good fun for young men.
My good buddy Paul was the first to expose (strange word in this case) this creep, and had the courage to stand up and tell the real story. Sure enough, the men in charge of our town tried to oppose Paul. They even had the nerve to try and name a park after Axford, but Paul proceeded (undaunted) to prevent a false legacy.
Paul and I have gone very far in our lives, and since we addressed this toxic time of our childhood, have been able to build a foundation of love and integrity in our adult lives. He too is married with three wonderful children, who will never have to feel unsupported.
Whomever you deem to be an iconic figure is probably not, so I suggest we focus on our own transformations, instead of empowering others to dictate how we feel about ourselves. This can be said of anyone or any institution of our society, where we become “hostage” to the patriarchal control, and rather than question it, we remain under their power and influence.
Too many times we see attacks on the accuser’s character. There is such a strong propensity to discredit the person, who is simply trying to tell their hidden truth, but too many would rather live in a world of fantasy make-believe and turn their heads to reality.
Reassurance and unbridled love is what I craved from my mom and my only sibling, but what I got was the polar opposite.
What I write now is the most difficult aspect of this ordeal – my mother, sister and ex wife actually use the information I gave them about me being molested and turn it against me. It is a betrayal of enormous proportions, and I cannot make sense of it or find comfort (yet) in their ongoing behavior.
I won’t speculate as to why, but they have assumed the identity of therapist, trying to paint this victim as a current perpetrator, as apparently they think someone from this background will pass on this pathology to others.
Yes, they accuse me of the very thing I was on the bad side of, and they do so without addressing it with me or seeking fact. This cowardice has been on display for a very long time, and that is why I ask others to further examine their actions regarding cases of abuse. Have the courage to face this head-on.
The victim needs to be fully seen, not condemned. I realize that when people take disingenuous actions such as these three have, they are really making a choice to ignore self-examination and find their personal demons, since the real enemy lurks inside of all of us. Human nature compels some to cast an enemy, even when it makes no sense or is factually baseless.
Truthfully, my past has been an amazing teacher for me. As long as I am willing to stop to see the inspiration, great things will unfold. The abandonment/betrayal has motivated me to be a more thoughtful, conscious and loving friend, father and husband. I have become the man I wish to be, and not the man my mother, sister or ex wife deem me to be. I get to throw out the script and write my own, which is co-authored by a divine source.
It is their fight to be right in their premise about me (and most other men) that is most destructive. Righteousness and rigidity I believe are an epidemic in today’s world, and my greatest accomplishments and achievements have happened when I am willing to toss out my need to be right and replace it with a desire to be enlightened.
What happens with abuse victims is we get caught in a controlling, patriarchal society net. This applies to men and women, who defend its causes and platforms (seemingly) to the death.
Although my ex wife has accused of the most heinous and indescribable acts, I have chosen the high road as much as possible. Undeniably it hurts so much to have to re-live old wounds, and to have my mother and sister align with this pattern is sometimes unbearable. It’s abuse and betrayal all over again.
Just like the predators, to tell these women “stop” nets little results, for those with conviction to manipulate their way are a robust force. It’s like going against a scud missile with a whiffle ball bat.
The only thing I have power and control over is my own actions of dedicated introspection and connection to heart.
What is most important is the current moment. Histrionics and gossip are too much a part of our fear-based society. It serves no purpose in my life to dwell in the past or yearn for a concocted daydream future.
Today, I love my wife and three sons with committed resolve. I am amazed each and every day that this guy gets to absorb and enjoy such profound attachment to them, as well as many others present in my life. Nothing or no one can take away our bond. A voice inside of me has always told me to stay steady and give to others what I always wished for myself. That song has now prevailed.
Like a lot of males, I do not resonate with the word “victim.” We have to been conditioned to be “tough,” with the emotional resolve of a Navy Seal. No whining and no blame. Pick yourself up by the bootstraps and keep your problems to yourself. “I’ll give you something to cry about.”
I looked up the word “victim” in my thesaurus. The words “loser,” “prey,” “stooge,” “dupe,” “sucker,” “fool,” “chump” and “patsy” appears. No wonder few come forward with actual facts about their abuse cases. In the animal kingdom, the leader does not show signs of vulnerability, or they will perish.
Then again, what doesn’t kill you makes you stronger. I’m emboldened by this perceptive tragedy of mine. Formerly a bitter man, I’m now a better man. Whereas I used to be inclined to assume the role of the helpless, I’m now strengthened by my past, choosing to learn from it instead of using it as an excuse to live a life unfulfilled. Honesty is certainly the best policy, for the truth sets our souls free. We are only as sick as our secrets.
As far as my mom, sister and ex wife are concerned, I do my best to accept it all and let go, but the fantasy guy in me sometimes takes over and I slip into ongoing inner monologues that has me convincing them to move towards love or inspired guidance. I vary from dismissal, to blind hope, to sorrow. I think they will “get it” some day, and other times I shut them out. They seem to be driven by a need to convince, using gossip and drama to get their very warped and damaged perspective across. I try every day to turn my will away from this pattern of living, and commit to being a shining example to my young boys of what it takes to self evaluate and grow.
It’s hard. I now ask anyone reading this to reflect on what I have experienced, and be sure to approach abuse in a way of earnest consciousness. Look to where you might walk with one another through the uncomfortable. They need empathy, not sympathy. See to it that you are available as a source of safety and unadulterated support. It’s all a victim really needs.
One thing this has all taught me is to be a strong and solid foundation for our own children. The adversity from my past has propelled me into a deeper resolve and greater understanding as to what a child requires to thrive. My three sons will doubtfully ever feel dismissed or disregarded, and will not yearn for paternal love. I see the sparkle and comfort in their eyes and effervescent glow from their heart, and it warms me to know I contribute to that light.
It is amazing. I am now married to the greatest human being I have ever met, not because she performs great feats or traditional acts of achievement, but because she is clear, present and available to what is. My wife is so grounded in authenticity and integrity, and the results are astonishing. “Image” and outward appearances mean nothing to her.
We affirm one another every day and take the time to look into one another’s souls. She not only takes my breath away, but deepens my inhale in a way that heals anything and everything.
She sees me for who I am, and that is enough. It is that simple…
And I am grateful to all who have contributed in allowing magnificent discoveries to unfold, including those who are perceptive obstacles in my journey. Without going through hell, I would not know or appreciate what it is like to be in heaven.
I forgive, but I do not forget. And I hope my recollections will assist someone else in navigating through these murky waters of abuse, and I hope my opening leads to an amazing life for you too.